It tends to be the finest of margins that define success in elite level sport.
However, such was the gulf in class between Germany and Brazil on Tuesday evening that the match will be referred in terms of chasms rather than minute margins.
In the run up to this tie, Brazil had been derided as an average side that had managed to hustle their way into a semi-final berth. Alas, Brazil showed that they were much worse than that.
In truth, Brazil have had this coming for years. They rely on not only a laboured formula but one that has rarely worked.
For a decade or so now, a workmanlike back six or seven - with the odd flying full-back - has provided a platform for the utter brilliance of one or two individuals. In 2002 they had three. At that World Cup in Japan/Korea, the ingenuity of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho took them to a record fifth title.
What happens when the production line of exquisite natural talent dries up? And the team becomes reliant on one talent? And that talent falls foul of an industrial challenge? Well, you get utterly – and deservedly – embarrassed on your own patch with the world watching.
Brazil, nation of carnival and samba, lack a footballing identity. As incredulous as that statement may seem, it is difficult to argue against it. To define their system or current philosophy is no easy task.
This is a national team in decline, and on this showing it will be a long wait until they add a sixth world title.
In spite of the above, this is a freakish result – if the tie were to be played again 100 times, Brazil would lose more often than not but surely not by such a grotesque margin. Who, then, is to blame for what must go down as their worst ever result?
Unfortunately, Luiz Felipe Scolari must shoulder a sizeable portion of the responsibility.
His reluctance to change things when it was quite abundantly clear that his side were on the cusp of catastrophe was indecision at its crippling worst. The very fact that the half-time introduction of Ramires and Paulinho sparked a marked improvement in Brazil’s play only makes his first-half inaction all the more mystifying.
A man of imperious character he may be, but, as a coach, Scolari unfortunately appears to be yesterday’s man; his reliance on unity, continuity and togetherness above all else - while admirable - is past its sell-by date.
While the aforementioned attributes remain integral to a teams' DNA they should not be dominant. Scolari’s dominant gene is that of yesteryear: loyalty. There is limited loyalty left in the game and for very good reason - for often it can be very costly.
His squad announcement in early May – when he ignored the in-form talents of Luis Filipe, Rafinha and Philippe Coutinho – reeked of blind loyalty and his decision making on Tuesday stunk just the same.
This is not to definitively say had he changed things when at a two-goal deficit Brazil would have salvaged gallant victory from the jaws of this harrowing defeat. However, they would have certainly made a better fist of it as the players on show in the first half were patently not up to the task in hand.
Scolari should have made decisive changes but reverted to type. That type has seen him to success in the past but football is now more dynamic than ever.
Of course, Scolari's successes as a manager will stand the test of time. He is after all a World Cup winner but this match and tournament was one too many for a wily old manager better suited to times past.
Marcus Foley – on Twitter: @mmjfoley
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- Luiz Felipe Scolari